Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur at the same time and increase the risk of heart disease (cardiovascular disease), stroke and type 2 diabetes.
The conditions that make up metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity or excess body fat around the abdomen, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. A person who has one of these health conditions does not have metabolic syndrome, but he or she is at an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
As a person develops more of these conditions, the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke continues to increase. Patients with two or more of these risk factor conditions are typically diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
Is Metabolic Syndrome Common?
Metabolic syndrome is a common condition in the U.S. In fact, the American Heart Association states that over 34% of U.S. adults, or about 1 in 3 adults, have metabolic syndrome.
Fortunately, metabolic syndrome is preventable and treatable, primarily through healthy lifestyle changes and medication in some cases. If untreated, metabolic syndrome can cause serious health problems including stroke or death, so it is essential that people with metabolic syndrome seek treatment.
Causes and Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome
While there is not a singular cause behind metabolic syndrome, high blood sugar, poor diet, living a sedentary lifestyle and having insulin resistance are all risk factors that can increase the likelihood you will develop metabolic syndrome.
Excess weight can hide beneath the skin and inside muscle, so it can be difficult to tell if a person is carrying excess body fat. A simple way to check is by measuring your waistline with a tape measure.
Other Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors
Other risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome include:
- Pre-existing diabetes
- Older age (over 65 years)
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Having insulin resistance syndrome
- Chronic stress
- Eating a diet high in carbohydrates or fat
- Genetics and family history
- Abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels
- Heavy alcohol use
- BMI (body mass index) greater than 25
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
Signs and Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Because metabolic syndrome comprises a cluster of different conditions, the signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome will depend on the conditions present.
Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms
- An apple or pear body shape (carrying most weight around the abdomen and hips)
- High blood pressure
- High triglyceride count
- Insulin resistance
- Acanthosis nigricans (darkened skin around the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts)
Many people with metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance, a condition in which the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin. Insulin helps move blood glucose (blood sugar) from your blood into the cells, where glucose is either used for energy or stored for later use.
With insulin resistance, the body cannot properly use glucose for energy, which causes the pancreas to produce more insulin and, in turn, increases blood sugar.
Diagnosing Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed by an endocrinologist. When you visit one of our experienced endocrinologists in Orlando, he or she may perform a physical exam and run blood tests to assess risk factors or identify existing conditions.
Specific indicators, including abdominal obesity and BMI, will be assessed, as well as blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with metabolic syndrome if your test results meet the following criteria:
- Elevated blood pressure (130/85 mmHg or higher)
- High blood sugar (100 mg/dL or more)
- Excess body fat around waist (40 inches or over for men and 35 inches or over for women)
Treating Metabolic Syndrome
Early diagnosis and treatment of metabolic syndrome is important—if symptoms such as high blood sugar and insulin resistance go untreated, they can lead to a number of problems, including:
- Slowing insulin production, which leads to type 2 diabetes
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Cirrhosis (chronic liver damage)
- Liver failure
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
If you are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, we will work with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan that optimizes diet and physical activity to prevent or minimize risk factors.
The main focus of metabolic syndrome treatment is to treat symptoms and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or heart disease developing. The severity of complications resulting from metabolic syndrome is largely affected by physical activity and diet.
One of our experienced endocrinologists will work with you to create heart-healthy habits and provide you with knowledge that teaches you how to prevent heart disease on your own.
First and foremost, we want to help you develop healthy lifestyle changes that will continue to benefit you and your family for the rest of your lives. Healthy habits are the foundation to a healthy lifestyle; medication cannot be as beneficial as intended if your lifestyle isn’t supporting healthy changes.
A metabolic syndrome treatment plan is aimed to help you with the following:
- Promoting weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Adopting healthy stress management techniques
If these lifestyle changes alone don’t treat metabolic syndrome or existing health conditions are far progressed by the time they’re diagnosed, medications may be required to help regulate blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol.
Common medications for metabolic syndrome health conditions include metformin or pioglitazone (for high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes), lisinopril (ACE inhibitor to treat high blood pressure) or low-dose aspirin (to reduce risk of heart disease).
Preventing Metabolic Syndrome
Your healthcare provider can help you develop a lifestyle plan that prevents metabolic syndrome and its associated health conditions. There are also steps you can take on your own to minimize risk factors and optimize your health.
Tips to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week
- Start with a slow walk around your neighborhood, a relaxing bike ride, a dance class or low-impact exercise video on YouTube. There are plenty of free resources and activities available to help you improve your health!
Eat a healthy diet filled with nutritious foods
- Getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet is essential for helping your body regulate its natural metabolic processes. To optimize your metabolic syndrome diet, aim to reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein intake with protein-dense meals and snacks. Opt for healthy fats, like fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Choose sustainable lifestyle changes
- Skip the fad diets and intense exercise programs that promise instant health results—these tend to have more of a negative impact than positive. When we deprive ourselves of certain nutrients or make drastic physical activity changes, this increases the chances of rebounding and exacerbating the problem. Slowly integrate more physical activity and diet changes into your life and increase your goals as you improve.
It can sound overwhelming to consider all of the lifestyle factors that impact health. That’s why we’re here to help! Our team at UCF Health is here to listen to you and your needs to develop a practical lifestyle plan that helps you reach your health goals.
Schedule an Appointment With a Leading Endocrinologist in Orlando
When you visit one of our endocrinologists, Dr. Amita Kathuria will take the time to get to know you and help you make the best decision for your health.
Dr. Amita Kathuria is a board-certified endocrinologist who specializes in metabolic disease management and is eager to help patients use technology to improve their blood sugar control and overall wellness.
Our team at UCF Health offers the skill, experience and quality of care you deserve. Our healthcare providers are known for their excellent bedside manner as well as their caring and compassionate approach with a special focus on living a healthy lifestyle.
We will work with you to reduce your cardiovascular risk and help you experience the greatest quality of life. You can use our convenient online scheduling tool to request an appointment with a leading endocrinologist and take control of your health.
“Your Risk for Metabolic Syndrome.” Www.heart.org, 17 Sept. 2021, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/metabolic-syndrome/your-risk-for-metabolic-syndrome#:~:text=Over%2034%25%20of%20U.S.%20adults%20have%20metabolic%20syndrome.
“Metabolic Syndrome.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 8 Aug. 2021, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/metabolic-syndrome#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20symptoms%20of,armpits%2C%20and%20under%20the%20breasts.